Prescription vs OTC Medicine

We are no stranger to medicines. We’ve all had to take them- be it for something as common as allergies and viral fever or for curing a more serious illness.

But did you know that there are two basic subdivisions of medicines? Read on to know what they are and how they are different from one another.

Prescription drugs vs Over The Counter drugs

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Prescription drugs can only be purchased when your doctor orders them. You will need a prescription with the doctor’s signature to get these medicines (which is why they are called prescription medicines).

Prescription medicines are intended to cure or control severe illnesses like diabetes, heart disorders, lung or kidney problems etc. These medicines have a strong composition and can take a terrible toll on the body if consumed unregulated. That is why there are strict rules regarding their sale and there could be severe penalties if they are sold without authorization from a doctor.

Another reason prescription drugs are not sold without a doctor’s sanction is to reduce incidents of self-harm or suicide through overdosing.

Over The Counter medicines or OTC meds are comparatively innocuous. They are the pills you pop when you have a headache, heartburn, sore throat or a fever. As you know yourself, you do not need to furnish the pharmacist with a prescription to buy them.

Though you will not be endangering your health even if you take more OTCs than is strictly necessary, you should also exercise restraint. Over-reliance on OTCs can weaken your body and immune system.

Moreover, remember to consult a doctor before you purchase OTC meds if you are already taking prescription medicine.

Another difference between prescription drugs and OTC drugs is that OTC drugs are usually cheaper than the other. That is because many of the prescriptions drugs are relatively new and patented which hikes up their price as they haven’t become generic meds yet.

Prescription medicines can only be sold by licensed pharmacists, in both offline or online ones. But OTC drugs are available at not just licensed pharmacists but also at convenience stores or markets.

Prescription medicines are meant for the use of only the person it was prescribed for. For example, if your friend has hypertension and takes a particular medicine you will not be able to borrow the meds from him/her if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure too.

But OTC medicines can be kept in your medicine cabinet and anyone in your family can just pop one when the need arises.

You cannot purchase prescription medicines in bulk. You will only be given limited strips of the med for the sake of safety. But there is no cap on how much of the OTC medicine you want to purchase.

Controlled OTC medicines

Some medicines may be classified as OTC but there are tougher regulations that govern their sale. They are called ‘behind the counter’ drugs. Some medicines like certain antihistamines or cough syrups induce pleasant mildly drug-like highs. The regulations ensure that they are not sold as addictives.

Now that you know what the fundamental classifications of medicines are, we would urge you to always be wary and keep them, even OTC drugs, out of reach of children.


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